Even if you felt the need to dispute an unpaid bill or explain what led to a foreclosure in the past, there are a number of reasons why you might have a change of heart
Rob Goebel, Lana Kotioukova/CreditCards.com
Have you ever said something and then later wished you could take it back? When it comes to personal statements added to your credit report, the good news is you can.A provision of the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives consumers the option to add a personal statement that it can limit to 100 words to their credit reports, either to explain the circumstances that contributed to their financial situation or to dispute something on the report. Whenever someone pulls the credit report, they would be able to read the personal statement to, ideally, gain a better understanding of your finances.
However, even if you felt the need to dispute an unpaid bill or explain what led to a foreclosure in the past, there are a number of reasons why you might have a change of heart.
- The statement may no longer be relevant. A disputed bill might have been corrected, points out Joanne Kerstetter, spokeswoman for Money Management International. Or your statement could be describing why you racked up a series of late payments even though that account may have dropped off your credit report.
- You may have privacy concerns. Despite your best intentions, you might now believe that the statement contains sensitive information that you’d rather not share, such as health details related to unpaid medical bills.
- You may question whether the statement is helpful. There is no guarantee the statement will be read, since many lenders use an automated process to make their credit decisions. You also may be unfairly judged by someone who thinks you’re making excuses for financial irresponsibility, says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, author of “Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom.”
A consumer statement will be removed from a credit report at any time, upon the consumer’s request.
|— Nancy Bistritz|
While you have no say about when late payments or other financial missteps fall off your credit report, “a consumer statement will be removed from a credit report at any time, upon the consumer’s request,” says Nancy Bistritz, global consumer solutions for Equifax. Once you’ve determined your personal statement has outlived its usefulness, take the following steps:
Find out when the statement automatically drops off
Check to see what systematic procedures the credit bureau has in place for handling personal statements. For example, personal statements that are linked to a specific charge or entry on an Experian credit report drop off automatically when that entry drops off, says spokeswoman Kristine Snyder. So if the statement is in reference to a bankruptcy, it would automatically be removed when the bankruptcy falls off the credit report (after seven or 10 years depending upon the type of bankruptcy). However, a personal statement submitted to Experian that describes multiple entries on a credit report or your finances in general remains on the statement for two years. Even if you’re comfortable with letting the statement drop off on its own, check back to make sure it was actually removed.
Determine how long it should take
If you added a statement to more than one bureau, you’ll need to make a separate request to each one. Each credit bureau has its own instructions for removing a personal statement and may give you multiple options (see table below). If time is of the essence, ask the credit bureau to tell you the fastest way to get your statement removed. For example, when you contact TransUnion by phone or online, the personal statement will be removed immediately, but when you do it by mail, the request will take longer to be processed, says spokesman David Blumberg.
Dispute the personal statement – even if it’s true
You’ll have to go through the credit bureau’s formal dispute process to get the statement removed from your credit report. Don’t get confused by the word “dispute.” Unlike a dispute to seek a charge on your credit report, there is no investigation and you don’t have to prove the personal statement is false. The statement can be 100 percent true. In this case, the dispute process is just a way to get the system’s gears moving.
Make sure the statement is gone
Anytime you make a request of a credit bureau, follow up to make sure it’s done, Kerstetter says. Even if the credit bureau sends you a confirmation that the statement has been removed, you should still pull a free copy of your report from AnnualCreditReport.com every year to make sure there are no surprises.
The idea behind allowing personal statements is to empower you to have some control over what lenders see on your credit report, and you have the right to change your mind. “The consumer added the statement, so they can remove it,” Snyder says.
|CREDIT BUREAU POLICIES FOR REMOVING PERSONAL STATEMENTS|
|Credit bureau||Automatic removal||Ways to contact them for removal||How long before item should be removed|
|TransUnion||If the personal statement references a specific item on the credit report, the statement expires when that item drops off the report. If it’s a general statement, there is no limit to how long it remains on file.||Available by phone (800-916-8800), online.|
By mail: TransUnion, P.O. Box 2000,
Chester, PA 19016
|Immediately when you call or dispute the letter online; Five days when you contact them by mail.|
|Experian||If the personal statement references a specific item on the credit report, it drops off when that item drops off; general statements drop off after two years.||Available by phone (866-200-6020), online.|
By mail: Experian’s National Consumer Assistance Center, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, Texas 75013
|A consumer statement should come off within a few hours after the request is made.|
|Equifax||The personal statement remains a part of your credit file until you request that it be removed.||Available by phone (888-397-3742), online.|
By mail: Equifax Consumer Services LLC
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0256
|Statements will be removed within 30 days of the request.|
|Source: CreditCards.com research, July 2016|